Alaska Gray Wolves 101
Alaska is home to the largest remaining population of gray wolves in the United States. But ironically, at the same time heroic efforts are being undertaken to restore wolves in the lower 48 states, wolves in Alaska are often the victims of controversial predator-control programs.
Why They’re Important
Alaska's wolves, like all predators, play an essential role in their environment. They help to maintain healthy caribou and moose populations by killing weak prey animals thereby increasing the strength of the herd. In Alaska, they are also vital to the state's tourism economy: People from all over the world come to Alaska for the opportunity to see a real wild wolf.
In Alaska, the state legislature, the Board of Game and wolf-control supporters continue to advocate for intensive wolf-control programs to increase game populations whether or not studies have determined that habitat is sufficient or that decreasing wolves is necessary. For almost a decade, the most controversial aspect of these control programs has been aerial gunning whereby private hunters, rather than state managers, are allowed to shoot and kill wolves from the air.
For more than 20 years, Defenders worked to protect Alaska's wolves through citizen ballot initiatives, state legislation and Board of Game policy, and we continue to monitor for attempts by the state to expand their management methods onto federal lands.
Our involvement in this issue included:
- Organizing presentations to educate the public on wolf issues and the importance of wolves to Alaska's ecosystems
- Working with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game to update educational materials on how to coexist with wolves
- Developing outdoor wolf trail safety signs to promote living and recreating safely in wolf country
- Leading and sponsoring a Rural Coexistence Project in Chignik Lake to encourage the community to use nonlethal methods to deter brown bears and other predators from being attracted to the area